F1-Fans Visits The Williams Factory!
In a surprise invitation, F1-Fans got to go down to the Williams F1 Team Factory today in Oxford. Why I hear you asking? Well it was to gain awareness about a new competition that has been launched by Williams and their main sponsor PHILIPS which will allow ‘Joe Public’ the chance to actually drive a real Williams F1 car.
Richard will be talking more in detail about the amazing competition on offer in a later article, but I wanted to focus on what we got to see while we were down there. This was the first time I have ever been to or even seen an F1 factory and to get the chance to see how it all works behind the scenes was too good to miss.
Well where to begin, the day started off nicely with a spot of breakfast in the Williams Teams Conference Centre, bacon buttes all round! It was followed by a short intro before we were ushered off on a guided tour of the Williams Team Factory; the first stop was the Race Simulator Machine.
The simulator was incredible; one of the technical team demonstrated it for us. A person literally sits inside a mock up chassis of a Formula 1 car and drives this simulation of actual race tracks and their conditions. They were telling us how the simulator replicates as closely as possible how the car would interact with the actual track and that it even knows where all the bumps are on the circuit, so the drivers like Nico & Kazuki can come and learn them before even turning a wheel in anger out on track! Given the ban on testing at the moment this Gucci bit of kit clearly has its uses! I just wish we could have had a go, but sadly not this time.
Once we left the simulator room our guide Nick took us on a tour of the main building, showing us reception, where the main offices for Frank Williams & Patrick Head were located, the meeting rooms, design rooms, finance offices, everything! We even learned that Frank Williams has his own private flat located within the building so he can always be at the heart of his team! Which we thought was just great.
We were then lead by Nick into the Machine Shops and Development Area for new parts. We got to see the Race Bays were cars were put together and worked on individually. We moved into another area and got to see how the team uses plaster moulds to shape the car seats directly to the driver before making them out of carbon fibre.
Next we got the chance to meet Sam Michael, Technical Director of Williams, who gave up 20 minutes of his time to answer our questions and just have a chat with us. A big one for F1-fans was that Richard & I got to sit either side of him! I know we felt start studded – big style lol. It was great to meet him and hear from one of the top guys in the team.
If that wasn’t enough, the big event that came after that and the main chance for us to get some juice pics while we were there was going into the Williams Museum. This was an incredible vault of treasures and history, all laid out on display. Cars from every single year that Williams have competed in F1 were their, must have been well over 30 cars shown! I mean I’ve never seen that many F1 cars all in the same place before. I felt like a five year old kid again seeing them.
In most cases the cars there were ones that actually raced and had a story behind them. We got to see the Williams that Michael Schumacher famously came together with in Jerez 1997 – it still had some of the tyre marks and dents in it! The car that Clay Regazzoni claimed Williams maiden win back in 1979 was there. We got to see the cars that both Mansell & Hill won their world championships in, as well as see the evolution in car design over the decades.
We got to see all the silver wear the team have collected over the years as well, most of it was just dotted all over the factory in random places as they have so much of it – it was great to see that human quality to it! The day was rounded off with a spot of lunch and a chat with some of the other F1 web bloggers that were their before we all went our separate ways.
In the end it was an absolutely amazing day and was a great insight into one of the biggest teams in F1, so I wanted to say a big thank you to them for allowing us that opportunity. I defiantly feel that this is a side of the teams in F1 that the public don’t get to see enough of and it was a big eye opener for us. But have a go at the competition on offer by PHILIPS, as what’s the worst that could happen? You could win the chance to drive a Formula 1 car!